Category Archives: Featured Blog

Forest Feature: Bobcats

A bobcat in a tree.

Our Forest Feature for March is the elusive Lynx rufus, also known as the bobcat.

The bobcat is the smallest wild cat in Oregon. It’s much smaller than the mountain lion, or even the Canada lynx.

Bobcats are about twice the size of domestic cats, but with longer legs and a muscular, compact body.

Bobcats are active year-round, even during the cold, winter months, but is not well adapted to deep snow.

They live almost everywhere in the Pacific Northwest, except at very high elevations. Yet you may have never seen one; they are notoriously reclusive!

A bobcat’s penetrating gaze. Undated USDA Forest Service photo by Terry Spivey.

The bobcat’s coat is yellowish and spotted with gray overtones in winter, and turns more reddish in summer. Their large, black ears that feature a large white spot and short black tufts. Their feet tend to be mostly white but can have stripes or spots.

These markings can be very striking, but they also serve to camouflage among the shadows when hunting smaller animals in the forest.

The bobcat’s most distinctive feature is the big “ruff” of fur that extends out from either side of its face.

USDA Forest Service photo (undated).

Bobcats get their name from their short, black-tipped tail.

These cats tend to be active during warm weather in cold months, and cooler temperatures in warmer ones. They like to rest in den sites located in natural cavities and caves, hollow logs, and protected areas under logs and downed trees.

While they prefer a very solitary life, bobcats are fierce fighters and have few natural predators.

Life in the wild can be hard, but the average bobcat lives about four years, and a healthy bobcat can live up to 12 years in the wild. In captivity, they can live up to 25 years.

Bobcats are extremely effective hunters. They stalk, rush, and pounce on their prey. Bobcats eat mice, rabbits, reptiles, birds, and even insects, and save what they don’t eat for later.

One of our USDA Forest Service resource assistants was so inspired by the lynx, he wrote this haiku:

Silent, steady eyes

Then, the blurry dance begins

The lynx and the Hare

For more information:


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Holden Mine: From Contamination to Recovery

WENATCHEE, Wash. –  Deep in the heart of the Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest, a dramatic sight was unfolding on the landscape above Lake Chelan. For five summers, bulldozers, graders, loaders, and excavators worked to reshape a rock-strewn mountain side, hauling loads of mine waste tailings across a 90-acre cleanup site until, for the first time in more than 60 years, the once-toxic area around the former Holden copper mine was again able to sustain healthy native vegetation and wildlife.

Abandoned in 1957, the Holden Mine contaminated groundwater with five toxic metals including aluminum, cadmium, copper, iron and zinc. These heavy metals washed downstream, polluting water in Railroad Creek, a major tributary to Lake Chelan. The metals also created a hazardous, hard orange coating known as ferricrete on the stream bed.

Unstable waste rock and tailings piles from approximately 10 million tons of mined ore further compounded the problem.

Today, thousands of gallons of contaminated groundwater are treated each day, through an on-site treatment plant. A concrete barrier between the toxic tailings pile and creek will prevent water runoff from the pile and reduce the chance of future contamination.

The remediation effort cost nearly $500 million, which was paid by Rio Tinto – a global mining company which inherited the responsibility for the cleanup through acquisition of a successor company to the original mine owners.

The project was complicated by the mine’s remote location. Holden Village, a religious retreat on the shores of Lake Chelan, closed its doors to thousands of summer visitors it typically hosts in order to provide lodging for work crews during the massive cleanup effort.

Other partners included the Yakama Nation, Washington Department of Ecology and the Environmental Protection Agency, and the USDA Forest Service – which acted as the lead agency overseeing the remediation efforts, because the majority of the cleanup took place on National Forest lands.

Local officials estimate that in addition to cleaning up Railroad Creek and protecting it from future contamination, the restoration effort injected approximately $240 million into the local economy, through hiring of local construction crews and heavy equipment operators.

The project created eight permanent jobs at the water treatment plant, and an additional site manager position in Chelan, Wash.

In September, the Forest Service released a Five-Year Site Review which documents the cleanup effort to date, and outlines future monitoring and additional work that is required.

For more information: Visit www.holdenminecleanup.com


Source information: The Okanogan-Wenatchee National Forest encompasses more than 4-million acres in Washington state, extending from the Canadian border to the Goat Rocks Wilderness. Elevations range from below 1,000 ft. to over 9,000 ft., and the forest is very diverse – from the high, glaciated alpine peaks along the Cascade Crest, through deep, lush valleys of old growth forest, to the dry and rugged shrub-steppe country at its eastern edge. Precipitation varies from more than 70 inches annually along the crest to less than 10-inches at its eastern edge.

Forest Feature: Beavers

A beaver swims across a stream

The busy, busy beaver is our February Forest Feature.

Beavers, or Castor canadensis, are sometimes called the “engineers of the wild.” They are probably best known for the elaborate dams they construct across streams, flooding surrounding wetlands.

A beaver sits upright, clutching something in its paws.
A beaver, photographed July 4 2007 by
Flickr user @sherseydc (Steve Hersey), downloaded Feb. 4, 2019. This image is shared with the owner’s provision under the provisions of a Creative Commons license (CC BY-SA 2.0).

A beaver dam creates a pond that provides habitat for the beavers, and for many other aquatic creatures. Deer and other animals may forage for grass and shrubs that grow in small meadows beavers have created by harvesting wood to build with.

The dams are built from wood, mud, and rocks. Beavers cut down small trees by chewing through them. They may even dig canals to float those trees back to their pond!

A large beaver dam on the Fremont National Forest is photographed in this file photo from the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region archive.

The beaver is the largest rodent that is native to North America. A typical adult beaver is more than 3 feet in length, if you include their broad, paddle-like tail, and weighs more than 40 pounds!

You might be surprised to learn beavers don’t live inside beaver dams. A beaver’s home is called a “lodge” and is typically a large mound, also made from branches and mud, located upstream from a dam.

Lodges can have multiple entrances, which lead to an above-water den inside. They even have “skylights” – small holes near the top that lets in fresh air.

The Olympic National Forest’s Brown Creek Nature Loop circles a beaver pond, seen here in an April, 2017 USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region photo.

Beavers live in colonies of up to a dozen beavers, and a colony may have several lodges!

During the winter, beavers take a break from all their busy building. In places where it gets very cold, beavers will store food for winter at bottom of their pond, or swim out under the ice to harvest underwater plants.

After a few years, when beavers have eaten most of the food and felled the closest trees around their dam, the colony will begin looking for a new home. Once abandoned, the beaver’s dam quickly deteriorates and the pond recedes, revealing a new wetland or meadow covered with rich, newly-fertilized soil where plants will quickly grow.

Did you know?

  • A beaver’s front teeth are very strong, and are sharpened by their chewing.
  • Beavers have bad eyesight, but a strong sense of smell and very good hearing. They do most of their construction work at night.
A beaver chews on saplings at the Mendenhall Glacier Viewing Center in Alaska. USDA Forest Service photo.
  • A beaver has furry paws on their front legs that are good at grabbing and holding building materials, and webbed toes on their back feet that are excellent for swimming.
  • Beavers warn each other of danger by slapping their wide tails against the water.
  • A beaver’s tail also helps them balance when carrying building materials, and steer themselves while swimming.
  • A beaver can hold its breath while underwater for up to 15 minutes.
  • Beavers’ building benefits the environment in many ways, including protecting endangered salmon and their habitat. Young salmon and trout find protection from predators in the complex currents and mazes of logs and branches surrounding beaver lodges and dams. Debris piles leftover from former beaver dams and lodges also protects the streams and creeks running through them from erosion.

Education resources:

Video, info and fact sheets:

Activities:


Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes, a family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like fact sheets, activities, or links to other educational resources about this topic – and for information about other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate environmental education and forest science in your Pacific Northwest classroom – email YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Op-Ed: Thank you, communities, partners and volunteers, for all your support during government shutdown

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

The five-week government shutdown was a trying time for Forest Service employees and their families. Our partners, volunteers, permittees, and contractors were also impacted, as well as many businesses and communities closely tied to national forests and the work we do.

On behalf of the Forest Service employees across the Pacific Northwest, I want to thank everyone who stepped up to help and support our employees and the national forests during this challenging time.

We are grateful and touched by this outpouring of support. Citizens and businesses offered assistance to help employees make ends meet and care for their families.

State and local agencies chipped in to help protect and maintain recreation sites.

Dedicated volunteers came out in droves and partners carried on our shared conservation work.

Times like this underscore the importance of shared stewardship. Our shared commitment to public lands – and each other – drives everything we do.

Today, we are more interconnected and interdependent than ever before.

The opportunities and challenges we face transcend boundaries and impact people beyond the jurisdiction of any single agency or organization.

That’s why we are committed to working across boundaries in shared stewardship with states, partners, and local communities to support each other and accomplish shared objectives.

We’re glad to be back at work doing what we love – caring for the land and serving people.

We are currently assessing the shutdown’s impacts and determining how best to adjust to ensure we continue to deliver the services the public expects.

We will engage our partners and local communities in these conversations as we adapt and move forward together.

Service is one of our bedrock values.

We are heartened and humbled to know that when the need arises, our communities, partners, and the public we serve are here for us, too.

We thank you wholeheartedly for your support and look forward to continuing our work together in shared stewardship.


Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester
 


Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the agency’s Pacific Northwest Region (Region 6), visit: www.fs.usda.gov/r6.

Open letter to Blue Mountains communities: First round of objection-resolution meetings a positive step

Leadership Corner - Glenn Casamassa

On Dec. 14, 2018, Pacific Northwest Regional Forester Glenn Casamassa released the following “open letter” to the communities affected by the proposed Blue Mountains revised forest plan (Malheur, Umatilla, and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests), including those who submitted formal objections or participated in objections resolutions meetings as part of the ongoing plan revision process.

See also:

https://yournorthwestforests.org/2018/11/21/forest-service-looking-to-listen-and-work-towards-resolution-in-blues-meetings/ 

***

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Chris French, Acting Deputy Chief, National Forest System, USDA Forest Service, listens to a participant in Blue Mountains Forest Plan revision objections resolution meeting at High School in Baker City, Ore. USDA Forest Service photo by Travis Mason-Bushman.

Dear Objectors, Interested Persons, and Blue Mountains Community Members,

I recently had the privilege of meeting many of you during the first round of objection-resolution meetings for the Blue Mountains Revised Forest Plans.  I want to sincerely thank everyone who participated.

Over 300 Objectors, Interested Persons, and public observers attended meetings in John Day, Pendleton, Wallowa, Baker City, and La Grande, Oregon.

I am grateful for the time and effort invested by each of you. I hope you will agree that this first round of resolution meetings was a positive step.

The meetings were led by objection reviewing officers based in Washington, D.C., with support and coordination from the Pacific Northwest Regional Office as well as the Malheur, Umatilla and Wallowa-Whitman National Forests.

The goal for these initial meetings was to bring clarity and mutual understanding to the Blue Mountain Forest Plan objection issues.

The dialogue helped Forest Service leadership and staff to better understand your values, concerns, and views.

Spending time in Eastern Oregon improved much more than our understanding of the issues identified in the objections, though.

Through our initial discussions we also gained a deeper appreciation of local residents’ special relationships with the land.

We had it affirmed that, for many of those who live in and around the Blue Mountains, these national forests are not just places to visit and recreate – the forests are a vital part of your community life, identity, heritage, and livelihoods.

The Forest Service is striving to honor these special relationships in the Blue Mountain Forest Plan’s resolution process.

In doing so, we will better respect the views of many different community members – including our Tribal neighbors, the States of Oregon and Washington, County and other local government representatives, user groups, environmental groups, industry, and business – all of whom seek assurances that the Forest Service will protect their priority resources.

During the initial meetings the Forest Service heard a lot about a wide range of topics, including access; aquatic and riparian conservation; elk security and bighorn sheep; fire and fuels; fish, wildlife, and plants; livestock grazing; local government cooperation and coordination; public participation; social and economic issues; timber and vegetation; and wilderness, backcountry, and other special areas.

Digging into these topics in person gave the Forest Service the opportunity to explore issues that were not as prominent in the written objection letters.  From the dialogue, some issues appear to be close to resolution while others will require further discussion, so there will be more steps to take in this process.

The Forest Service knows that many topics are interrelated, and we will work to pull together the related topics for discussion in future meetings, so all of us can better see the connections and consider the trade-offs of potential resolutions.

The Forest Service also understands that not all Objectors and Interested Persons were able to attend the first round of meetings or have their voices represented by others.

So, as we navigate these next steps, the Forest Service will work ensure we are as inclusive as possible in future objections-resolutions meetings.

Over the coming weeks the reviewing officers will be studying the notes and reflecting on what we heard in the first round of resolution meetings and we will be helping the Washington Office in scheduling the next round of objections-resolutions meetings. We will be in touch again to announce the next steps.

Thank you for your contributions, and I look forward to making more progress together in the near future.

Kind regards,
Glenn Casamassa,
Pacific Northwest Regional Forester 



Source Information: Glenn Casamassa is the Regional Forest for the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region, supervising operations and staff on all national forests and grassland in Oregon and Washington State. For more information about the Blue Mountains Forest Plan planning process and scheduled objections resolution meetings, visit: https://www.fs.usda.gov/detailfull/r6/landmanagement/planning/?cid=fseprd584707&width=full

Forest Feature: Conifers

Frost on a Ponderosa Pine located on the Deschutes National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

This year, the Willamette National Forest continued the Forest Service’s 50-year tradition of providing the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree for display on the Capitol lawn, along the National Mall, in Washington D.C.

This year’s Capitol Christmas Tree is a noble fir, just one of many species of native Pacific Northwest conifer that are grown or harvested for use as Christmas trees each year.

Conifers are cone-bearing trees that feature needles, rather than leaves.

Dew condenses on the needles of a Douglas fir tree on the Ochoco National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Dew condenses on the needles of a Douglas fir tree on the Ochoco National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

These trees are often very aromatic: pine, spruce, fir, and other conifers produce chemicals called “terpenes” that many people associate with our forests, fresh air, and time spent enjoying the great outdoors.

Many people think of conifers are “evergreens,” plants that keep their color and foliage all year. But that’s not always true! Some conifers, such as Douglas fir, are evergreens.  But others, like the Larch, are not – they shed their needles every fall.

Ponderosa pines hold a dusting of snow at Mt. Bachelor on the Deschutes National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Ponderosa pines hold a dusting of snow at Mt. Bachelor on the Deschutes National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Many Pacific Northwest conifers grow straight and tall, which makes our forests an excellent source of timber for lumber. Conifers are categorized as softwood trees. Timber from conifers is often used products like paper, cardboard, and the kind of board lumber used in many types of construction.

The noble fir’s symmetrical shape, silvery green needles, and stiff branches make it an excellent tree for hanging ornaments from. Douglas Firs and Grand Firs are other Pacific Northwest conifers that are also used as Christmas trees.

A child poses with a noble fir, harvested for use as a Christmas Tree, in this archival photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

A child poses with a noble fir, harvested for use as a Christmas Tree, in this archival photo. USDA Forest Service photo.

Did you know you can harvest your own Christmas tree on National Forest -managed lands? Permits can be purchased from your local forest or a local vendor – contact a district ranger’s office for the forest you want to visit for more information, or visit the forest’s website. Find a forest at www.fs.fed.us.

Fourth graders can receive a free holiday tree permit when they present their complimentary “Every Kid in a Park” program access pass at a Forest Service district office.

Women select a Christmas tree to harvest on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Women select a Christmas tree to harvest on the Gifford Pinchot National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Conifers also bring us many other benefits. Like other trees, they absorb odors, carbon dioxide, and other pollutants. Their shade cools the mountain streams where salmon swim and spawn. On hillsides and river banks, their roots slow water runoff and hold soil in place, slowing erosion.

Living conifers feed birds with their seeds, and provide habitat and shelter for many wildlife species. Downed trees also provide food and habitat for wildlife and plants as the trees decay.

Pine trees dot the Chewaucan River valley on Fremont-Winema National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

Pine trees dot the Chewaucan River valley on Fremont-Winema National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

While conifers are a traditional source of lumber and firewood, researchers are developing new ways to use their wood for construction materials, fuel, and heating homes.

Cross-laminated beams and timber panels can build not just houses, but office towers. Wood pellets burn more efficiently and produce less smoke than logs. Processes like torrefaction and biochar can help wood burn even more efficiently, harnessing it’s energey as fuel to produce heat or even electricity!

If you look, you can probably find something in the room you are reading this in that’s made from a conifer. And if you go outside… you may not need to go far to find a conifer there, too!

More information:

An expanse of conifers rolls across distant mountain ridges, viewed from Bald Knob Lookout on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.

An expanse of conifers rolls across distant mountain ridges, viewed from Bald Knob Lookout on the Rogue River-Siskiyou National Forest. USDA Forest Service photo.



Source information: Forest Features highlight a new Pacific Northwest species (or sometimes family, order, kingdom, or genus) each month, as part of the USDA Forest Service – Pacific Northwest Region’s regional youth engagement strategy.

If you’d like more information about this topic, or other ways the Forest Service can help incorporate Pacific Northwest environmental education and forest science in your classroom, email us at YourNorthwestForests@fs.fed.us.

Teachers, mentors: Apply to celebrate International Day of Forests with United Nations in Rome

The 2019 theme for the International Day of Forests is “Forests and Education” and the Food and Agriculture Organization of the United Nations wants the world to know how you educate children and youth about the importance of trees and forests.

From the UN FAO website:

Today, more than half the world’s population lives in cities, and are increasingly disconnected from nature.

it is more essential than ever to bring an understanding and awareness of forests and their benefits into children’s lives at an early age.

We’re inviting teachers and non-teachers alike to send us a short video that shows how you provide children with a foundation to better understand the importance of forests and trees for our planet’s future.

The press release suggests taking video of “a traditional class, a field trip into the forest, an art or music lesson, or even a yoga class.”

Videos should 60 seconds or less, uploaded to YouTube, then submit the link via the entry form at http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/teachers-contest/submission-form/en/.

Videos will be posted on FAO’s website, and the winner will join the staff at FAO headquarters in Rome to help celebrate the International Day of Forests on March 21, 2019.

Deadline for entries is Dec. 15, 2018.

For more information about eligibility, answers to frequently asked questions, and the submission form, visit:

http://www.fao.org/international-day-of-forests/teachers-contest



Source information: The Food and Agriculture Organization (FAO) is specialized agency of the United Nations that leads international efforts to defeat hunger, achieve food security for all, and to make sure that people have regular access to enough high-quality food to lead active, healthy lives. With over 194 member states, FAO works in over 130 countries worldwide.

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree team says ‘hello’ to Ohio!

The 2018 U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree arrives in Harrison, Ohio Nov. 23, 2018. Courtesy photo by the Joy Trip Project (used with permission).

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 23rd, 2018
St. Louis, Mo.

Hello, Ohio!

We left the “gateway to the west” and headed due east 321 miles to Harrison, Ohio today. Its amazing how far away Oregon seems, both in space and time.

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The people of Harrison were amazed we had traveled so far, and seemed happy we chose to stop in their little town. We pulled into town to the cheers of over 3,000 people!

Harrison has a beautiful, nostalgic, historic downtown, and that’s where we conducted our last Capitol Christmas tree “whistle stop” event before the tree-lighting.

It was quite a scene! A men’s a cappella group sang as the tree rolled into town, accompanied by the clapping of the crowd. As soon as the tree stopped, several thousand people converged to sign the banners and to take pictures.

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I’m afraid I may have to adjust my view when I return to the real world. Throughout this trip people have offered us free coffee, food, and snacks.

The people of Harrison treated our entire team with our own tray of cookies from their amazing local bakery. So yummy!

People are so kind. You wouldn’t necessarily know it with what you see on the TV or in print, but it’s true; there is still a lot of kindness in the world. I feel so blessed to have seen it for myself.

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After dinner, our group went on an impromptu tour with a local historian to see the city’s underground tunnel.

President William Henry Harrison, who is buried nearby, was one of the proponents for the tunnel. He even sold his land to help pay for the tunnel’s construction. The tunnel was built from wood and brick, made from rock mined just outside the city. It was originally built to move water as part of the Whitewater Canal system, but has been has been used for many things throughout the years.

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Several people I talked to at the event said they were very happy to have the tree in their town.

They had many reasons.

Some people came to see their first noble fir tree, some came to sign the banner and add their name to the tens of thousands on our giant rolling “Christmas card,” others came to see some of the 10,000 hand-crafted ornaments Oregonians made to decorate the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree (and other trees in side the U.S. Capitol building).

Some said they came to see it because just could not miss this once-in-a-lifetime event.

Some came for the events offered for their children, like ice skating on plastic composite “ice,” and making ornaments for their tree at home.

And then there were those who came specifically to see the truck!

The Kenworth W990 is fresh off the show room floor, and wrapped in a special 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree design.  Delivering the tree to the U.S. Capitol is its maiden voyage. Presence, power and personal style wrapped in a world class design that redefines the long hood conventional truck cab, with plenty of room for snacks, like our very large box of cheese-its!

What a show-stopper!

What a wonderful way to finish our tour! Tomorrow we have a quick stop, and then we are on to Maryland for the night and to deliver the tree to Joint Base Andrews. On Monday, we’ll deliver the tree to the U.S. Capitol!

PS: Even though the “whistle stops” are over, I will continue to blog until the tree is lit on December 5th.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

 

 

 

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree team celebrates Thanksgiving in St. Louis

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 22nd, 2018
St. Louis, Mo.

Celebrating the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree at the St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade

It’s Thanksgiving Day, and I am 2,054 miles from home. But I’m thankful for the technology that allows me to correspond without the need for the Pony Express.

It’s harder than I thought it would be to be away from my family during the holiday, and I don’t think I was alone in feeling that way. Emotions were near the surface for many of us this morning.

But our day was brightened by the parade!

Here we are getting ready to hand out some Smokey swag to parade goers!

And here we are, making our way to the parade route.

What an amazing thing to be a part of! The St. Louis Thanksgiving Day Parade is the second largest Thanksgiving Day parade in the United States. It was broadcast on live TV, and occasionally the parade would pause for a commercial break.

There were nearly 150 entries, including the amazing animal balloons that are filled with helium. I had only seen those on TV before today. They are pretty cool on TV.  They are WAY COOLER in person.

Smokey Bear and firefighters from the nearby Mark Twain National Forest joined our entry. It was a toss up over who had the most fans between the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree and Smokey Bear. Combined, I’m pretty sure they stole the show….. but, I’m only a little bit biased. Cries of “SMOKEY BEAR!” and “Look it’s the tree!” followed us along the entire parade route.

After the parade, we all ate together as a “tree team family.” We had a fantastic dinner.

Several people were heard to say that it was the best food they had ever eaten, from the butter, to the main course, to the desert. I, myself, have never remarked on the excellence of butter before tonight, but I was not alone in stating this particular fact out loud!

Some of us had traditional Thanksgiving turkey dinner, and some ventured away from the holiday menu. But all enjoyed their meal!

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Following dinner, we dispersed to nap, exercise, or to call family back home.

After so many days and nights on the road, we’re all thankful to spend two nights in the same hotel and to have an opportunity to rest up a bit before the journey begins anew in the morning.

Happy Thanksgiving!

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

 

 

 

 

 

SWEET HOME TO DC: 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree completes Oregon Trail leg

A Modern Day Adventure on the Historic Oregon Trail

Each year, a National Forest provides a Christmas Tree for display on the U.S. Capitol lawn in Washington D.C. This year’s tree is travelling from the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, in the western Cascade mountain range. District Ranger Nikki Swanson is recording her notes from the journey for the Your Northwest Forests blog.

To read previous entries, visit https://yournorthwestforests.org/category/capitol-christmas-tree/.

For more information, visit the U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree website, www.capitolchristmastree.com, and story map: https://arcg.is/10DOyv

Track the tree! Follow the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree on its Return to the Oregon Trail journey in near real-time, at www.trackthetree.com


November 21st, 2018
St. Louis, Mo.

We have completed the Oregon Trail portion of our journey!

Today, we reached Independence, Mo., where the Oregon Trail began.

Although we and the 2018 Capitol Christmas Tree are not done with our journey, this marks a major milestone for us, as it means we have traveled the length of the entire Oregon trail during our trip.

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There is a monument, here, that to mark the starting point for the Oregon Trail.

It reads: “This monument honors the pioneer spirit of these courageous men and women who by their heroic trek across the continent established homes and civilization in the far northwest.”

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Ahead of those pioneers lay 2,000 miles of prairies, river crossings, mountains and whatever weather nature dished out. Ahead lay a dream of land ownership and a better way of life.

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A modern day “covered wagon”!

Independence, Mo. was a river port which specialized in outfitting travel along the Oregon Trail, and it was our first stop for the day.

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What a lovely event it was! There were wonderful people dressed in historic pioneer clothing that helped make covered wagon ornaments. The library provided maps of our route along the Oregon Trail, and read several pioneer stories to the children.

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Some days, the world seems smaller than others. Today was one of those days. I met a lovely couple who are good friends with the people who won the “find your ornament” contest on the Willamette National Forest’s Sweet Home Ranger District, where I work.

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I took their photo so their friend could see they were there. This sort of thing has happened throughout the trip, with family members signing the banner and then taking a photo to send to relatives so that they can sign in the same place at future stops.

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It continuously amazes me how connected we are, even when we are separated by 2,000 miles. I suppose similar experience happened to the Oregon Trail pioneers as they carved their name in a rock or left messages for those coming after them.

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After the Independence event, we traveled to the nearby Mt. Washington Cemetery because we heard that Jim Bridger’s memorial was there. Jim Bridger was such an instrumental part of the Oregon Trail story that we just HAD to go and see it. Not even a washed out bridge with a narrow crossing could stop us from our mission!

We found the grave site, and felt the power of connection once more. It was only a few days before that we stood in a snowstorm at Fort Bridger, where Jim advised and outfitted so many pioneers as they progressed on the trail.

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Our next stop was St. Louis, Missouri. Members of our tree team hurried, even jogging part of the way, to attempt to reach the Gateway Arch before it closed for the day!

We didn’t make it in time to go in the arch, but we were able to go into the museum and to explore around the arch.

It was a beautiful night with a nearly full moon and the place seemed absolutely enchanted.

The arch is an engineering masterpiece! It is so amazing.  This is a place I will return to, when I have more time to explore.

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The museum under the arch was also incredible. St. Louis is often referred to as the Gateway to the West because it was a popular gathering area for many people who later settled in the western territories.

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The museum had many exhibits and some great video of what life on the Oregon Trail might have looked like, as well as several first hand account displays of what life was like during the great human migration to the west.

Nikki Swanson
District Ranger, Sweet Home Ranger District
Willamette National Forest

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